A guide to bike insurance.

When you first learn to ride a motorbike, you're usually focused on what bike you can buy and how powerful it will be. However, perhaps the most important consideration is motorbike insurance.

Bike insurance is a legal necessity in the UK and is designed to ensure riders can cover the cost of accident related damages and injuries, depending on the level of cover they have in place. Riding uninsured is illegal and could potentially leave you facing stiff fines and even a ban - so here we look at this essential piece of kit and how you can get a good deal.

What to look for from motorcycle insurance.

It's easy to think that price is the most important factor when choosing a bike insurance policy - but just like a cheap bike is unlikely to boast the features of a more expensive model, a cheap insurance policy may not be value for money either. So it's important to read the terms and conditions carefully and make sure you're getting the cover you expect.

There are three types of bike insurance available:

  • Third party only: This protects riders from liability for injuries to third parties and damage to their property.

  • Third party, fire and theft: This is third party cover with protection for your own bike against fires, thefts and damages caused by attempted theft.

  • Comprehensive: Third party, fire and theft cover plus cover for damages to your own bike (subject to policy exclusions). Comprehensive bike insurance can differ widely between insurers but will usually include accidental damage, vandalism and medical expenses.

While taking out more protection will leave you better protected if an accident occurs, don't pay for options you don't need. Some of the features to look out for include:

  • Breakdown cover: This is sometimes offered for an additional premium. Make sure you check what is included in the policy such as recovery/relay, home starts, onward travel and European cover.

  • Legal assistance:If a third party was at fault for an accident, this will cover your legal expenses.

  • Replacement bike:Should your bike require repairs, some insurers will supply a replacement bike on a temporary basis. You may not need this if you already have access to a second vehicle.

  • Riding other bikes: In typical circumstances you will only be insured to ride the bike you own - but with riding other bikes cover you may be able to use other bikes with the owner's permission in emergency situations.

  • Travelling in Europe:
    If you plan to take your bike abroad check the level of cover that applies overseas and how many days you can spend abroad with your bike both annually and in succession.

Bike insurance - additional considerations.

Let's say you've found a bike insurance policy that provides all the protection you want and is affordable - is there anything else to check before you sign up? Here are some additional considerations:

  • Excess: The excess is your contribution to a claim and is usually split into a compulsory excess set by the insurer and a voluntary excess, which is an amount you agree to pay on top of the compulsory excess in case a claim is necessary. Increasing the excess can lower premiums but be careful to keep it affordable.

  • Exclusions: Examine the terms and conditions of your policy carefully and be mindful of exclusions - circumstances in which you will not be covered.

  • No-claims bonuses: If you can stay accident free and don't make a claim on your policy then you could earn a discount - potentially as high as 60 per cent after four or more years.

Is it more expensive to insure new bikers?

According to the Compendium of Motorcycle Statistics 2007, around 6,500 bikers were killed or seriously injured on the UK's roads. Young bikers are considered a particularly high risk group due to their lack of experience and 1,787 of these accidents involved learners or inexperienced bikers.

As such bike insurance for new riders can be particularly high which is why it's so important to take all the steps you can to keep premiums in check. Here are some tips:

  • Agree to a mileage limit: The less you ride, the less likely it is an accident will occur.

  • Choose the right bike: Opt for an older bike with a smaller engine as they cost less for insurers to repair/replace and are less likely to be used at high speeds meaning premiums are usually cheaper.

  • Increase security: Consider investing in mechanical and electronic security devices to limit the risk of theft. If you can, park your bike in a garage overnight.

  • Pay annually: You can avoid interest charges by paying premiums upfront.

  • Shop around:Make sure you're receiving value for money on your bike insurance by shopping around with a comparison website.

  • Take an advanced riding course: Consider taking an advanced riding course once you have completed your practical test to further your experience and potentially earn discounts from insurers.

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